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Anyone who has driven very far on Missouri's highways this year is already familiar with the color orange, fewer lanes and detours. The Missouri Department of Transportation "literally will have a thousand work zones" this summer, said Pete Rahn, who has been MoDOT's director since September.
Much of the highway construction and repairs are due to an infusion of funding from Amendment 3, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in November and which allocated more state revenue to MoDOT.
In addition, Rahn said, MoDOT is benefiting from a concept called "practical design," which the new director implemented. Practical design is just what the name implies. In short, it applies common sense to the design of highway projects. The examples Rahn used during a recent visit to Cape Girardeau included installing box culverts rather than a more expensive bridge when warranted.
So far, Rahn said, the highway department has saved $400 million for projects in the current five-year plan -- critical funding for a department that has been short of money for so long. All of those dollars, he said, are being plowed back into more highway projects.
There is little question that Missouri's existing highways are in need of major upgrades and repairs. With additional funding and a prudent approach like practical design, highway users can expect to see significant improvements in the months ahead.